Author ~ Bekeme Masade-Olowola
Two weeks ago, we commenced a series that looked at how some indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs have provided sustainable manufacturing solutions for critical areas of our everyday life; from the arts, nutrition, mobile technology to bowel movements. These businesses are in their daily operations, knocking down multiple targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Everyone who moves within my orbit recognises that I have an especial passion for all things Nigerian and that I have a commitment to selflessly driving the nation forward. It is, therefore, exciting to see other ‘rainmakers’ who are consciously or inadvertently driving national development. As the Paul tells us in the Bible in his letter to the Corinthians, there are diverse spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4) and he goes on to list them: “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge…to another faith… gift of healing… working of miracles…prophecy…discerning of spirits…various kinds of tongues, and…the interpretation of tongues.” This implies that people can contribute to this vision called Nigeria according to their gifting and what better way than manufacturing which provides diverse avenues for employment and economic growth?
S**t Business is Serious Business
“Shit business is serious business” has become a common saying in Nigeria since Isaac Durojaiye (aka Otunba Gadaffi) – a social entrepreneur and former security and intelligence officer – founded DMT Mobile Toilets, a social enterprise based on the new cultural phenomenon of the availability and use of mobile plastic toilets as public toilets in Africa.
While many people shy away from toilet business, Isaac Durojaiye saw the reality between a social need and how a business can drive human solutions. The reality is that the human biological makeup necessitates that everyone must defecate, and this process is the one thing that cannot be delegated to another, no matter one’s economic or social status. If approximately one hundred and eighty million Nigerians must go at least once a day, and we are a people who are constantly at social and religious gatheringsa mobile toilet business is definitely one that addresses the diverse needs of necessity, sanitation and convenience.
The idea of mobile toilets came after Durojaiye, in 1992, was put in charge of an elitist wedding that had about 10,000 guests in attendance. This beautifully gathered elite – whose living facilities, according to research, averagely have toilet to human ratio of 1:1.5 – had only two toilets to share. Durojaiye jumped on this opportunity and commenced his business which he expanded in 1996 and named DMT Mobile Toilets. He started constructing the mobile toilets locally to address local needs, and to date, his company produces around 200 units every month for sale and hire across Nigeria and in seven countries in West Africa. Imagine the rate of employment opportunity that this adds to our economy if 200 units of functional mobile toilets can be supplied monthly and about 200 people are directly employed to maintain them.
Durojaiye’s success is testament to the fact that opportunities lie in wait around us if only we would overcome our reticence and pursue vision with determination.
How Tecno Took Over Nigeria
Founded in 2006 by Nnamdi Ezeigbo, a home grown Nigerian entrepreneur and the CEO of Slot Systems Limited, Tecno Mobile is currently the fastest selling mobile phone in Nigeria and Africa. The brand has rocked our world today not because it is the pioneer of mobile technology but because its competitive edge is socially driven.
Ezeigbo had a mission to bring solution to the social challenge of carrying multiple phones and for low income people to own a phone, and so approached Nokia with the intention of convincing them to manufacture dual SIM phones, but his business idea was turned down. Ezeigbo is no stranger to failure, having lost out at a job opportunity with a multinational oil and gas company at the final stage and having searched for employment in vain for years after graduation.
According to his interview with Nairametrics, an online news portal, after he had learnt the phone and computer repair trade, moved into owning his own shop, graduated to selling phones, and finally been turned down by Nokia, he hazarded a passage to China and found and returned with a man who had worked with a now defunct phone company called Bird. He registered Tecno Mobile Nigeria, and they designed the first Tecno phone, Tecno T101, which then progressed to more advanced versions following feedback from the market and determination on the part of the self-funded Ezeigbo.
Considering the needs of Nigerians and our economic status as people living in a developing nation, Tecno phones in the Nigerian market has opened the door of opportunities for Nigerians who can now own priceless mobile technology at affordable costs. Today, the trend is that at least 5 in every 10 Nigerians who have a mobile phone have a Tecno phone; implying that Tecno phones have taken leadership position over mobile giants such as Samsung, iPhone and Nokia, at least in volume of sales.
One may wonder how a mobile phone company originally determined an insignificant competitor, can today dictate the pace of mobile technology in Africa, and particularly in Nigeria. The answer is in tenaciously integrating human needs into business ideas. Understanding the economic status of Nigerians, Tecno was the first mobile company to sell its all-powerful Android software as seen in Tecno N3, Tecno P5, Tecno D5 and other Tecno phones series for as low as 13,000 naira, at a time when its peers sold similar technology for a minimum of 30,000 naira.
This buttresses the fact that the essence of business is not just for profit, but to satisfy human needs. It is only when people see the capacity of a product to satisfy their needs that they go for it. If the so-called mobile giants remain continuously oblivious to the needs of the people, then the needs of the larger population of Nigerians and Africans may continue to be satisfied by Tecno.
Today, the big phone brands have either shipped or are in the process of shipping their corporate offices out of Nigeria because of the undeniable socio-economic pull of fastest selling phone brand Tecno and its sibling brand, Infinix.